Scales shifting from marketing to business development

law firm marketing, marketing director, business developmentThe scales are shifting in professional services marketing. The days when it sufficed to perform ‘marcomm’ activities – like brochures, advertising, public relations, firm events and branding – have passed. Today there is pressure on marketers to show return on investment.

In short, marketers must move from the ‘expense’ side of the ledger to the ‘revenue’ side.

Adding urgency is the fact that the US (and soon the world) is in a recession – consumer spending is down, unemployment is up, home prices are down, oil prices are near an all time high and the war in Iraq is wasting billions.“We are in a recession right now – it’s pretty obvious,” said Sara Kraeski, Director of Business Development of Davis, Graham & Stubbs in Denver, at a recent conference.

Partners today don’t want to know how much your project costs, they want to know how much it will earn. Smart marketers are changing their focus to business development activities:

  • Advising teams going on tender competitions and beauty parades.
  • Developing proposals that win new business.
  • Identifying targets for clients to pursue.
  • Helping professionals write personal business development plans.

Coaching is the single best activity in which to be proficient.The good news is that ‘BD’ is a learnable set of skills, and the abilities that make a top professional – being a good listener, analytical, expert questioners, organized and hard-working – are the same skills of those of top salespeople.

You as the marketer must help the professionals write business development plans.The priorities of the plans are pursuing clients first, then referral sources, next becoming visible in a business organization and finally targeting business executives. It’s all about relationships – the more a professional has, the more clients he or she will have.

First you’ll need support from the top. Announce to firm management that you have a plan to increase its revenue significantly. That will get their attention.Then explain that you will work with the fee earners who have the most potential (not the new associates or the 40-year old ‘service partners’ who have no clients).Your plan is to magnify their new business production.

I recommend that professionals spend 200 hours per year on business development. This equals four hours per week – a goal easily attained by meeting a referral source for coffee, visiting a client’s offices at lunch and attending a trade association meeting at an event.

Here’s why this works. If you have 10 professionals who are active four hours a week, they should meet two ideal clients per week.This works out to 1,000 contacts per year. Let’s suppose they are just terrible at what they do and have a 90% failure rate. It still works out to 100+ new clients/matters per year. And that is a return on investment the partners can take to the bank.

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Dan Cox - March 26, 2008 4:59 PM

One effective way to gain attention within the context of a business development plan is to contribute articles and guest columns to publications that are read by potential clients.

This can be accomplished without diluting billable hours if you hire a legal ghostwriter. The ideas and perspectives are yours, but the hard work of writing falls to the anonymous legal ghostwriter.

nancy fox - March 28, 2008 7:44 AM

I recommend that legal marketing and business development leaders advise professionals to network strategically. Most professionals I work with hate the networking process, hope and wish for referrals. They often attend events haphazardly or where they feel comfortable. These are often events that will not bring them in connection with viable prospects or referral sources. In fact, connecting with the right people, referrers and/or potential clients, takes thought and planning regarding which events or venues to attend. It also is a great opportunity for leaders in Business Development and Marketing to create roundtables and events within the firm to bring the right people into your own "home." A very effective use of time and resources.

And yet, even these strategic best practices will only produce ROI if effective follow up ensues.

Nancy Fox

Bankruptcy Attorney - March 28, 2008 12:43 PM

Interesting comment about a ghost writer... where is the best place to find a legal ghostwriter?

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